Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Poor" Service...That I Loved!

Just returned from a business trip in Curacao, an island just north of Venezuela (yep, business!) I had taken a taxi/bus into the downtown area (they essentially pick up people as they pass them along a particular route) to videotape some vlog entries, and was returning back to the resort where I was staying.

As I entered the taxi/bus, the driver asked me in (very) broken English if I had been to Curacao before and whether or not I was in a hurry (I was obviously not a local). I said (in irreparably broken Spanish) yes - many years ago - and not really. This was not surprising, as anyone who has been to a Caribbean island understands the "island time", go-with-the-flow mentality - which I personally appreciate as part of enjoying their culture.

This is where the story gets interesting.

Rather than traveling the typical direct route from the town center to my resort, she deviated wildly. Among her SIDE trips - waaay off the route:

picked up her daughter from school
picked up her sister from the grocery store
picked up her son from school
dropped off her sister at her house
stopped at a gas station to say "hi" to a friend (30 seconds)
picked up a family member

All the while, the driver would comment to me about different things she was driving by. After the above-listed stops (45 minutes into what should be a 10 minute trip), I started to wonder if I had miscommunicated my destination...and then it hit me:

I didn't care.

I was loving the exclusive experience that I was having. I was enjoying seeing things that are very much "off the radar" for anyone visiting the island, and soaking in the real culture of these people - my primary passion when it comes to travel.

What some would consider "bad" service" was actually one of the highlights of my visit there.

Interestingly, about the time I was wondering about what was going on, I unconsciously glanced at my watch and she immediately proceeded to drive directly to my resort. Her keen attention to my non-verbals (and broken "verbals") allowed her to gauge my enjoyment of the experience in real time, and adapt accordingly.

She only asked for the standard rate for the original trip (just US$2.00) and I more than doubled it for (an unheard of) tip.

I think if we all could gain quite a bit by following her example. Focusing on customizing every experience will always set you apart from the competition - and pay off nicely.

Next time I'm in Curacao, you can bet I'll be looking for this taxi driver again!

Think about it...but more importantly, do something about it - today!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Important Or Imperitive?

Ultimately, running/growing a business is all about making decisions. I believe the real problems are created because people fail to adequately prioritize.

Nearly all companies have espoused Standards or Values. The problem occurs when a decision needs to be made, the team reviews the Standards - which are all of equal importance - and begin the ever-familiar process of arguing which is the best route to take to solve the problem.

At issue is having numerous important Standards actually gets in the way of effectively and efficiently resolving the situation. When all the Standards are equally important, then the entire operation can come to a standstill - only becoming "unstuck" when someone has superior political weight (authoritative position or influence) to push a decision through the process.

This could all be avoided if the Standards were prioritized. If every company created a "forced choice" of their Standards/operational guidelines and ranked them according to what was the most important (then second most important, etc.) from the CUSTOMERS' perspective, you could actually use it as a tool. Once identified, they only need to be defined, communicated to everyone in the company, and reinforced/measured (accountability).

Once this is done, I've seen numerous companies see immediate improvement on, not only the decisions that teams were making, but also the alignment of employees behaviors with the corporate culture. When the building blocks of the business is organized, there is less agonizing in the operation.

Think about it...but more importantly, act on!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sick of "Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda"?

Let's set some things on the table:

Yes, the economy is horrible.
Yes, the resources are more scarce.
Yes, the customer is demanding more for less.
Yes, the competition is hungrier.

Yes, yes, yes...I get all that too. What's real is real. I have no problem accepting the truth and dealing with reality - in fact, I'm about as pragmatic as they come.

What I do have a problem with is the attitude of "there's nothing we can do" or "we just have to wait it out".

The people who mistakenly take this position are usually the ones that are frozen in fear - thinking that they only have to continue "business as usual" until things stabilize and then they will pick up where they left off in their business dealings. They are also the people who expect that their industry/competition/customers will go back to the way things were.

They are so very wrong.

Yes, the economy moves up and down in somewhat predictable cycles. That will never change. However, another predictable thing that doesn't change is the cycles of changes in business dynamics and social expectations.

Does anyone think that their competition is really standing still? Does anyone really expect customers to settle for less than value for their dollar?

People expect more now. Customers and employees are rethinking their decisions. Those businesses that deliver - in time to capture these seeking customers/employees - will succeed. Those who do not, will slowly fade away. The irony is: they will wonder what happened and somehow blame the economy or some external force - rather than their lack of willingness to act on those critical behaviors that would make a difference.

If a company wasn't delivering before and are suffering now because of that, why continue "business as usual"? That is a sure path to destruction! The companies that were consistently delivering quality and service (value) are still doing fine as long as they are adapting to their changing customers priorities. Unless organizations 1. identify their shortcomings, 2. identify plans/tools that will fix those shortcomings, and 3. take action (now!) to execute those ideas, then it all will become empty talk.

Results never come from talk - they only come from action.

Think about it...but more importantly, act on!